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Furniture Investments

17.03.21

By Aston Lark Client Director, Julie Webb

‘Furniture is a fashion industry’ and here’s why quality 20th Century pieces have become such strong investments

In this feature we explore why 1950s-1970s British and Scandinavian furniture is attracting so much interest – and why dark wood has fallen out of favour.

A new generation of environmentally conscious buyers, who have spent a year at home during lockdown, has led to a significant rise in interest in 20th Century contemporary furniture sales.

Well-made, hard-wearing teak and Danish rosewood are becoming strong investments with demand pushing up prices and large numbers of new buyers registering at auction houses, further increasing demand and prices.

John Black, of Sworders Fine Art Auctioneers, says that good condition second-hand furniture remains affordable with pieces selling for around £500.

He said: “The latest trend for mix ‘n’ match furniture fits well with clients who enjoy recycling and want to stop this throwaway society. Buying furniture is always all about fashion but, at the moment, buyers are being realistic.

“Not everyone lives in vast loft apartments. Most people have homes where furniture has to be durable and usable – and furniture made in the 1950s to 1970s fits the bill.

“Yes, we are a fashion industry. British brands such as Ercol are popular in the market. Earlier this year we sold a dressing table for £1,600 which would have fetched £300 a couple of years back. Terence Conran, Ernest Race and John Makepeace are all top British names and their iconic designs are always desirable.

“Scandi furniture with its clean lines and functionality has been on trend for a while. Danish designer Hans Wegner’s mid-century pieces sell well, the rich rosewood colour patina is very attractive.

At the other end of the scale, earlier elegant Art Deco pieces can command five-figure sums. John explained: “At our last auction we sold a Jules Leleu (1883-1961) Art Deco ‘Feux d’artifice’ (Fireworks) rosewood and marquetry commode for £57,200 and a matching cabinet for £45,500, both including fees.

“They were exceptional with ebony and mother-of-pearl marquetry flowers, which are rarely seen in such excellent condition.

“Condition is most important, although when it comes to upholstery if it is not too expensive, buyers are able to make changes and reupholster after purchase.”

Winners and losers

While 20th Century furniture is the present hot ticket, remember that bespoke furniture made by the best cabinet makers never loses desirability. Beautiful pieces by Adam, Chippendale and Ince & Mayhew fall into this category and the Harrington Commode, made by Thomas Chippendale Snr, the ‘Shakespeare of English cabinet makers’, sold at auction for £3.8million.

In contrast, heavy and dark wood Victorian furniture is, for now, out of vogue and clients often tell me they ‘cannot give it away’ which is a shame because the pieces are often well made with quality materials.

Antiques expert Penny Bingham gave me her opinion on these buying trends. Penny said that while not everyone can afford a Chippendale, she suggests that it’s worth remembering “simple fine Georgian furniture fits in well to the modern pared down interior”.

She added: “A fine piece of Georgian furniture can often act as a statement piece in a room while Victorian furniture tends to be associated with very cluttered and fussy interiors. Most people generally do not want to furnish their homes in the way that their parents or grandparents did!”

Simon Johnson of auctioneer Bonhams agrees. He told me: "It is true that out-of-fashion brown furniture remains in the doldrums in the auction rooms today. Sadly Georgian and Victorian, unless an outstanding piece by a recognised maker or with cast iron provenance, will generally achieve low prices. Dining room furniture is where the loss is perhaps most obvious and the dining table in particular, due to traditional dining rooms becoming less popular for entertaining. The market remains very choosy!"

Finding the right protection for your furniture

Whichever furniture you choose to invest in, be sure to get a valuation certificate – this is evidence to support an insurance claim. It is also important to include the value of your investment under your home contents policy, as in the event of a claim you don’t want to realise you are underinsured.

To find out how to avoid the underinsurance trap – read more here.

To talk to us about the insurance you have in place, or to book an appointment for when your insurance is due to renew, call us on 020 8181 3169 or visit us at https://www.astonlark.com/abode2

No hard sell, just good old-fashioned advice.

Sworders is one of the longest established fine art auction houses in the UK, operating since 1782. It conducts more than 45 auctions each year. The next Fine Interiors sale is on Tuesday and Wednesday March 30 and 31, the next Design sale is on May 5, while Home and Interiors online auctions are every two weeks throughout the year. Visit sworder.co.uk

A Pair of Danish teak armchairs, designed by Arne Hovman-Olsen for Mogens Kold in 1958, each with brown vinyl seats. Sold for £1900

Two G plan teak chest, each with four and three drawers, one drawer labelled with a gold stamp, raised on floating metal stands. Sold for £450

 

 

 

A contemporary two-drawer cabinet, each of the drawers with eight laminated coloured sections, raised on strut supports. Sold for £1900

A set of four BA23 chairs, designed by Ernest Race in 1946, each with a cast aluminium frame, original pad seat and back, cast ‘BA23 Regd Design No.848794’ and with remnants of labels. Sold for £420

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